But the blessing of adequate rainfall should trigger another concern. It would be easy to start taking water for granted.
It would be easy, but shortsighted and potentially dangerous.
The truth is, the drought didn’t cause our state’s water problems - it only made them worse. Rapid growth, especially upstream on the Chattahoochee, created competing demands for finite water resources long before the lakes dried up and the watering bans took effect. Misguided management by the Corps of Engineers dates back to the early days of West Point Lake. Political leadership on water issues has ebbed and flowed for decades.
None of that was washed away by recent rains.
Another reality check: There’s been a lull but no real resolution of the so-called “water wars.” After a quarter century of bickering, deal-brokering and legal wrangling, Georgia, Florida and Alabama remain at odds over both the Apalachicola-Chattahoochee-Flint and Alabama- Coosa-Tallapoosa river systems. The next crisis - or long-term disaster - could be only a court ruling away.
With heavy rains easing drought concerns, the word “water” was barely spoken during the recent legislative session. Last year water was, if not Topic A, at least B,C or D. Leaders are understandably tuned in to the economic downturn, but time spent debating other, less basic, issues could have been more wisely spent on water supply policy.
Georgia has made a small start but no real progress in water planning or water policy. We have, perhaps, another chance to be proactive, but not much more. The recession will end and the growth engine will revive - then what?
We’ll be hearing the second verse of the same songs from years gone by.
Enhanced conservation, well-planned reservoirs, water-saving construction techniques - all have vast and mostly untapped potential. Even the stimulus billions seem to be heading in other directions.
The truth is, there will never be a good time for Georgia to take water for granted. That’s especially true for those of us who depend on the Chattahoochee, the smallest U.S. river asked to supply demands for a sprawling major population center.
Many of us changed our ways during the recent drought. Human nature will tempt us back into old, wasteful habits, but we must fight the temptation to put water concerns on the back burner.
No economic issue is more important than a safe and adequate water supply.
Don’t let Georgia’s focus on water issues get “rained out.”